December 18, 2017

Vilsack Commits to Exempting Mechanically Tenderized Beef Regulation

According to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said last week in a congressional hearing that he may suspend the Uniform Labeling Regulation so that the rule for labeling mechanically tenderized beef (MTB) products can be issued. Mechanically tenderized beef is whole cuts of beef that have been pierced with fine blades or needles to break up the connective tissue in the meat. This action introduces bacteria to the interior of the cut, and poses a food safety hazard if the meat is not cooked to 160°F.

Rare SteakThe MTB labeling rule has been pending for 10 years. Meanwhile, there have been food poisoning outbreaks linked to this product. Two outbreaks, one in 2003 and the other in 2009, caused 174 illnesses and killed one person. And remember that these numbers are only about 10 to 25% of all actual food poisoning cases that are reported to health officials.

The mechanically tenderized beef label wasn’t finalized before the end of 2014, so most people thought these products wouldn’t be labeled until 2018. Vilsack told reporters after the hearing “we’re going to try to move that up. I think we’re going to move it up to 2016.”

The rule is now at the Office of Management and Budget. DeLauro wrote a letter to Shaun Donovan, Director of OMB  in November 2014, stating that “a 2008 study conducted by USDA indicated that approximately 50 million pounds of mechanically tenderized beef products were sold every month. These products do not currently have to be labeled so consumers do not know that they are different, present different risks, and require different preparation than whole cuts of beef.”

 

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